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Maria Sherman

Maria Sherman is a music and culture writer living in New York City. She's a head writer at Fuse Television and contributes regularly to BuzzFeed, Billboard, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, MTV, Men's Journal, SPIN, Vulture, and more. After spending many years trying to convince herself to appreciate indie rock, Sherman discovered boy bands and nothing has ever been the same.

“Truly, Madly, Deeply: Exploring the Relationship Between Fandom and Mental Health”
Boy bands and their fans have a long history of trivialization. Love One Direction? You're read off as a hysteric young woman. Love One Direction as an adult? There's probably something seriously wrong with you. It's a completely isolating mentality, as well as a dangerous one: What are we really saying to girls when we disregard their bone-deep love for something? 

As part of our group boy band panel at this year’s Pop Conference, I want to explore the dangers of this marginalization by focusing on a crucial, oft-ignored characteristic of modern boy band fandom: the conversation surrounding mental difference. In the past few years, groups like One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer have not only tackled ideas of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety—the real stuff that plagues many in adolescence—head on, but their fandoms have taken the conversation a step further. There's a real lack of taboo in the safe fan space. They’re making progressive leaps and bounds with their own language.

And yet, it's still complicated: Obsession has always been a close friend of depression. How are these issues discussed without being appropriated, celebrated? Back in the day, fan girl love was considered hysteric, from the Beatles and even before: “Lisztomania” was a term created to describe the “frenzy” young women had towards Franz Liszt in the 1800s. It was treated like a disease.

With an in-depth dissection of band interviews, lyrics, live performance, social media as well as those of fan accounts, man-on-the-street-style documentaries and the like, I hope to not only present this explorative piece of fandom, mental difference, and identity in a comprehensive manner, I hope to explore how—in this particular subset of music love—great conversations are being conducted by young people at younger ages than ever before. I'll begin by exploring mental illness in fandom history (in boy bands and earlier), concluding with 1D and looking towards the future in pop artists like Halsey. As culture and social media changes, so does the discourse. How is it happening? Why now? What makes these conversations so crucial today?

“She Loves You… Loving Him: On Fanfiction, Fanart and Homoeroticism”
Music’s loudest voices are its fans. Young people specifically direct and motivate the waves of pop history with their dedication and fervor, making them the loudest but most undervalued influencers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The power of screaming teens packing arenas for everyone from the Beatles to One Direction has translated to online communities where the fans have made their voices not only louder but more connected. This three-paper panel—with each paper specifically focused on boy band fandom—will explore the influence and power of digital fan communities, touching on psychology, sexuality, and social media along the way. 

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